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Perceptions of firearm-related harm among US adults living in firearm-owning households: a nationally representative study

Abstract

Decision-making on having firearms at home may be contingent on perceptions of the likelihood of their negative and positive outcomes. Using data from a nationally representative survey (n=4030) conducted during 30 July 2019 to 11 August 2019, we described how US adults living in firearm-owning households perceived the relative likelihood of firearm-related harm by injury intent (‘accidentally harm self or someone else with a gun’, ‘injure self on purpose with a gun’ and ‘injure someone else on purpose with a gun’) for groups at risk of compromised decision-making (children; adolescents and individuals with mental health issues, substance use disorders or cognitive impairment). We found that US adults living in firearm-owning households believe that unintentional firearm injuries are more likely than intentional self-inflicted or assault-related firearm injuries, despite evidence to the contrary. Prior evidence indicates that communicating risk in relative terms can motivate behaviour change; therefore, findings from this study might helpfully inform health communications around firearm safety.

  • firearm
  • suicide/self-harm
  • violence
  • behaviour change

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